While Groupe Bernard Tapie (GBT) may have conceded defeat in its bid to acquire the assets of mothballed online poker firm Full Tilt Poker (FTP), it turns out GBT attempted one last Hail Mary pass to salvage something of worth from their months of negotiations. Poker blogger Diamond Flush has published an email (read it here) sent by GBT principal Laurent Tapie to “key staff of FTP” immediately following the breakdown of negotiations with the US Department of Justice but before word of the split had reached the online gambling media. Tapie’s email was a bid to convince FTP’s brain trust to abandon the RMS Titanic/FTP and join Tapie in a new online poker venture (F-Tapie?) that Tapie claimed would launch in six to seven months.
Tapie’s email begins with a post-mortem of the failed DoJ/FTP negotiations, which he claims were ruined by the DoJ’s insistence that all FTP player balances had to be repaid in full within 90 days. Tapie described this condition as “unworkable” and suggested “no one would accept such terms.” If the rumors are true, “no one” doesn’t include PokerStars, which has allegedly agreed to exactly such a condition as part of a wider settlement with the DoJ on Stars’ Black Friday legal issues.
Tapie then segues into a report by a finance employee at FTP’s Dublin-based tech hub Pocket Kings Ltd. (PK), which said PK had sufficient funds to meet its payroll for April, but nothing beyond that. Tapie claims he offered to license FTP’s assets on a temporary basis “in order to relaunch the site, preserve the value of the assets and participate in an eventual auction as a bidder in the future.” Tapie claims FTP honcho Ray Bitar was adamant that DoJ approval was required for any significant action re the assets, so Tapie went back to the DoJ, which ultimately rejected his proposal.
COME WITH ME IF YOU WANT TO LIVE
Following this rejection, Tapie again approached Bitar, reminding him of FTP’s inability to meet future payrolls and suggested Bitar put FTP into insolvency. Having failed to get a response from Bitar, Tapie made his pitch directly to staffers, claiming he would “devote a significant portion of the funds” earmarked for the FTP acquisition to launch his own company “under the auspices of Game Cubed,” the company Tapie recently created in Ireland (initially under the name New Full Tilt Ltd.). Tapie insisted he would only go down this road “if I can attract ALL OF the Pocket Kings KEY STAFF to join me. With your help and know-how, we will launch a new website that will be best of breed in 6-7 months.”
Acknowledging that such a decision would require “a leap of faith” by PK staffers, Tapie promised to hire “the entire Pocket Kings key staff – every single one of you – at your current salaries and with your accumulated benefits intact” as of May 1. To sweeten the deal, Tapie said these staffers would also receive stock options in the new company. Assuming everyone agreed to join Tapie, he vowed “we will write a new poker software platform based on your knowledge and relaunch using a new brand.” Tapie further claimed he would make a pitch to former FTP ROW players that their balances would be restored along the lines of the original GBT offer to FTP “if they come to our new site.”
Tapie emphasized that he had the money to back up his offer and was working with Alderney gaming regulators about obtaining a new gaming license. Tapie also said he was negotiating with PokerStrategy.com “to resurrect an affiliate arrangement similar to that which I was negotiating with FTP.” PokerStrategy subsequently released a statement acknowledging it had discussions with GBT, in the hopes of being “instrumental in ensuring that a re-launched Full Tilt Poker would allow for swift repayment of previous player balances.” However, “since the news that their deal fell through, our conversations with GBT have been limited and we are unaware of their actual plans for establishing a standalone site.”
Tapie finished his pitch to FTP staffers by applying the hard sell, saying he needed staffers’ replies “very quickly” to ascertain whether he had “sufficient critical mass to move forward no later than the end of THIS WEEK.” There’s no evidence to suggest how many – if any – PK staffers were willing to accept Tapie’s offer. Nor is there any evidence to suggest that the absence of any former PK team members would cause Tapie to abandon his quest to launch his own online poker site in the near future. Could Tapie now be emailing former/current key staff at Ultimate Bet/Absolute Poker?